Youngstown takes on the Rocky Mountain Rage at 7:05 at the Chevy Center.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A fresh start to the season is what the Youngstown SteelHounds were looking for.
After a lackluster inaugural campaign that showed great fan support, strong seasons by team leaders Jeff Christian and Chris Richards, some promise on the ice but a poor record and missed playoffs clouded some of those positives.
This season is already off to that fresh new start as the SteelHounds sit atop the Northeast Division of the Central Hockey League with a 2-0 record.
Off to good start
The 'Hounds, coming off two victories last weekend in Memphis, 5-4 and 4-2, open their home schedule tonight and Saturday against the Rocky Mountain Rage. Faceoff for both games is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
In order for the 'Hounds to have success against the expansion Rage, they are going to have to utilize the three strengths that saw them earn four points last weekend.
The first is special teams. Youngstown went 5-for-16 on the power play and ranks third in the CHL. Chris Richards had a strong weekend, part of which was two power play goals.
The second is speed. The 'Hounds were all over the RiverKings in both games, generating more shots and scoring chances by utilizing their quickness. Rookie Shaun Landolt scored the game-winning goal Saturday by using his speed to burst through two defenders and head in for a breakaway goal.
The final strength the SteelHounds have been built on is team toughness. Youngstown set a team record with 116 penalty minutes Saturday and lead the CHL with 140 minutes (70 per game).
SteelHounds coach Kevin Kaminski knows first hand what that toughness means to a winning team and likes what he sees of his club thus far.
"When you can skate like this team and have veteran leaders like Richards, Esdale and Christian you are going to put yourself in position to score goals," he said. "Another thing I like about this club is the way they stick up for each other. You mess with one player you are going to have to take on the whole team. This team is already building a selfless identity of playing for each other."
Leading the way
Richards and Christian are both off to fast starts picking right up where they left off last season when they formed the most prolific duo in the CHL, combining for 199 points. Richards, the former Ohio State standout, leads the league with seven points and Christian has five.
Richards was named the CHL player of the week after his strong weekend in Memphis.
The Rage have been assembled by former Rio Grande coach Tracy Egeland and have a similar look to his teams in South Texas. They are big and strong but less mobile which could give the 'Hounds the recipe for offense generated by their speed. The Rage are backstopped by an outstanding goaltender in David Guerrera, who turned away 38 shots in the team's victory.